Early Life & Education
Rishi Dhamala was born in Dhading’s Jyamrung village as Durga Prasad Dhamala. He was given a new name, i.e. Rishi, at an early age by a popular village leader in his village who happened to share the same name, Durga Prasad. Rishi said in an interview that since Durga Prasad’s ego was hurt by the fact that a not-so-significant boy in the village had the same name as of his, he was indirectly forced to adopt a new name.
Rishi completed primary education from Sankhadevi Primary School of his village and left his education to travel to Kathmandu out of curiosity. Though generally known as an uneducated journalist, Rishi has said in interviews that he has passed the SLC exams in 1992 from Janaprabhat Secondary School and an Intermediate in Arts (IA) degree in 1995 from People’s Campus Paknajol, Kathmandu. In an interview with the Kathmandu Today, Rishi said that he wants to complete an MA in Political Science some day.
Career As A Journalist
Rishi Dhamala struggled in Kathmandu for many years before he became a popular journalist. In an interview given to Kapan Online, he recalled his journey from Dhading to Kathmandu and his early days in Kathmandu.
“My cousin brother and I left home at an early age to come to Kathmandu. I managed to steal NRS 100 from my father’s pocket which we used as a travel money to come to Kathmandu through Dhadingbesi and Malekhu. We came to Kathmandu in a truck and we did not know where to go so we told the driver to leave us near the Dharahara Tower. That was all we know about Kathmandu. It was 01.00 am when we reached Kathmandu.”
“I knew that there was a distant-relative from my maternal sides, Pradhumna Bikram Singh, who worked as an officer in Nepal’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MoFA). I went to his place and he was quite happy that I was there. Then I started staying with him and cook for him.”
“After 1990s, I started staying with Rishi Subedi in Kalimati and I used to cook food there as well. There was a newspaper shop nearby and I would see many journalists discussing about different issues there. I came to know a few of them who helped me find job as an assistant in printing press. I also started selling newspapers and worked also as a hawker. This is how I came into journalism.”
After the 1990s democratic movement, Rishi Dhamala became a popular face as a journalist renowned for his ‘cunningness’ and the ability to incur information from various difficult-to-reach authorities and political figures.
Rishi said in an interview that he and his organization Reporter’s Club are behind various political scandals in Nepal.
“One thing is certain that without me and without the Reporter’s Club, there wouldn’t be so many political scandals in Nepal. Most of these press-political scandals are in fact created on purpose. Narahari Acharya had to resign as Nepali Congress Party‘s Spokeperson due to something that spoke at the Reporters Club. Sarad Sing Bhandari lost his post as a cabinet minister because of his controversial statement (The Terai can separate from Nepal) that he gave at a press-meet organized by the club. His statement created a national uproar. Without the Reporter’s club, these things were not possible.”
Rishi Dhamala has been lately criticized by many Nepali social media users for his harsh and what many term as rude interview style. His interview with Nepal’s popular cricket player and captain of the time Paras Khadka was criticized by many Nepalis in Nepal and abroad. While responding to the critics, Dhamala said:
“I have interviewed India’s Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh while he was in office, why can’t I interview Nepali cricket player Khadka? A journalist can ask questions to presidents, prime ministers, leaders, celebrities and sportsmen. There is no point in littering Facebook walls because a journalist asked a few questions to a cricketer.”
Controversies and Personal Life
On 3 February 2009, Dhamala was arrested by the police and faced charges of possession of arms and ammunition, kidnap and murder. According to the Nepali Times, “the allegations made by the police against Dhamala were formed on the basis of a telephone conversation Dhamala had with Ramsubhak Mahato, who headed Ranbir Sena in the Valley. Mahato, who was arrested the day before Dhamala, said that he secretly recorded his conversation with Dhamala in which someone sounding like him makes a deal with Mahato to extort Rs 3-4 million from an unidentified businessman.”
Following the incident, Dhamala spent three months in police custody and on 11 January 2010, the government of Nepal decided to drop all criminal charges against dhamala.
Rishi Dhamala is married to Aliza Goutam. Dhamala’s wife Aliza Goutam Dhamala is said to be a model and a permanent resident of Canada. Several online memes surfaced in Nepali social media circle after Dhamala’s wife said in a TV interview that Rishi Dhamala deserves to be Nepal prime-minster or president.
Dhamala tried to enter politics and filed his nomination as a candidate for Nepali Congress’ National Congressional Representative contest from Dhading, but he lost the elections. Since then he has said that if he decides to join politics, he will relinquish journalism.
Dhamala has said that he does sometimes read social media jokes about him and has nothing against them. When asked about his poor English skills, he gave rather an emotional statement:
I know many people make jokes of my poor English skills. I studied in a school in a village, and couldn’t continue my university education. I know my English is not good, but I am not a stupid person like presented in jokes and memes. Lately, I am trying to improve my English too.
Rishi Dhamala was very close to Nepali Congress leader and former prime minister late Girija Prasad Koirala and is said to be still close to his daughter Sujata Koirala. Dhamala and Prachanda are also said to be in good terms.